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Assistance centers to open for flood-affected residents; south Lake County meetings are next week

The entrance to LaSalle Fish and Wildlife Area in Lake Village remains flooded and closed Monday. 

Flood recovery efforts continued Friday, as officials continued to urge residents to report flood damage, take safety precautions while cleaning up and avoid possible scams. 

The number of homes without gas service in the Lake Station area fell to 12 late Thursday, down from more than 30 a week ago, a NIPSCO woman said.

Along Ramsey's Road near the Kankakee River in Jasper County, 26 homes remained without gas service. Service cannot be restored until floodwaters recede.

The Kankakee River at Shelby remained close to its record high Friday and was not expected to recede until late next week.

"We've got a long way to go," said Jody Melton, executive director of the Kankakee River Basin Commission.

The repair at the levee near Ramsey's Road in Jasper County was holding, he said.

Officials in areas affected by flooding said they were working to document response costs following Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb's emergency declaration for 26 counties, including Lake and Jasper, Newton and Porter. Holcomb added Newton and Porter on Friday.

Several levee breaks in LaPorte County remained, and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources was planning to repair a levee break that caused flooding in the Kankakee State Fish and Wildlife Area.

Lake Station was mostly in recovery mode Friday, said Jodi Richmond, director of the Lake County Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency. 

The Lake County sheriff's helicopter assisted Porter County emergency management officials as they monitored the Kankakee River, department spokesman Emiliano Perez said.

Assistance centers to open

A state assistance center will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Polk Elementary School, 2460 Vermillion St., in Lake Station.

Another state assistance center will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at DeMotte Town Hall, 112 Carnation St. SE.

Residents will be able to apply for assistance and gather more information. 

State services available will include housing support; social services such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit cards, child care provider listings, health coverage application assistance and more; unemployment benefits; insurance information, including general insurance navigation advice and complaint resolution and car insurance assistance; public health information, including where to obtain free well water testing; transportation assistance; and information and assistance for the agricultural community. 

The American Red Cross and Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster will distribute food, water, clothing and other essential items.

Community meetings have been scheduled for 5 p.m. March 9 at the Schneider Volunteer Fire Department and 6:30 p.m. March 9 at the Shelby fire station, Richmond said. The meetings are open to all residents, including those in Lake, Newton and Jasper counties.

The meetings will include information about what residents need to do to report damage and what they can expect during the assistance application process.

The state may decide to conduct damage assessments at individual homes. Those decisions are made based on what residents report, which is why it's so important to report damages, Richmond said.

Where to report damage

Residents with property damage should contact their insurance providers first, Gary officials said.

Those with property damage not covered by insurance should report it at http://bit.ly/2018rainfall. A link to the portal also can be found at dhs.in.gov under Featured Topics. 

Residents should clean up or make repairs as needed, but diligently document all damage with photos and receipts. The documentation will be critical if any state or federal funding becomes available.

The Newton County Sheriff's Office and Indiana Homeland Security warned residents to be cautious about who they allow to make repairs. 

Property owners should check credentials and call the company to verify the person's employment. Newton County residents can call the building department at 219-474-6081, ext. 2102, to verify a contractor's registration.

For more information about relief and recovery visit http://in.gov/dhs/4055.htm.

Porter County officials this week declared a local disaster emergency, initiating local plans and additional resources to be paired with other local and state efforts. 

Officials in Porter County urged residents to report uninsured flood damage.

"Please document any Kankakee River flooding and damage, and don’t throw away damaged property. If FEMA gets involved, they will need to physically inspect damage as well as have documentation of flooding," officials said in a statement Friday. 

Gallery: Flooding in Northwest Indiana

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